Leaf Relief; Urban Trees Act as Crime Stoppers

The city of Baltimore’s high crime rate inspired a gritty TV drama. But a new study (Tinyurl.com/TreeCrimeReport) by the University of Vermont’s Transportation Research Center, in Burlington, found that a 10 percent increase in trees in a given area led to a 12 percent decrease in crime.

“It’s really pretty striking how strong this relationship is,” says Austin Troy, lead author of the study, published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning.

Researchers examined the correlation in and around Baltimore using aggregated crime data and combining it with high-resolution satellite images to conduct the analysis. The working hypothesis is that because people enjoy spending time in pleasant outdoor spaces, there are more observers present to hinder criminal activity. Also, a well-maintained landscape seems to send a message that someone may be watching.

To avoid culture bias, the study considered many socioeconomic factors, including housing, age, income and race of residents, as well as variables such as rural versus city setting and population density. The findings should prove helpful to urban planners.

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